DISTINCTIVES & STATEMENT OF FAITH
OUR THEOLOGICAL IDENTITY: DISTINCTIVES
The most important question you can ask regarding a church is, "What does the church believe and teach?" The fact that you are reading this article is a good indication that you, too, believe this to be an essential issue.
While this article may not answer every question you have about Evangelical Fellowship, we do want to assist guests and inquirers in learning more about us.
The church must not be so broadly open that it fails to make vitally important distinctions that the Bible itself makes. At the same time, however, we do not insist that every person share the same precise set of theological convictions on every matter. In other words, there are negotiables and non-negotiables when it comes to doctrinal distinctives. Evangelical Fellowship is characterized accurately with the following statements:
CENTERED ON GOD’S GLORY
We believe that God’s glory consists of the overwhelming and overflowing beauty that stems from the sum total of His attributes (e.g., His holiness, love, wrath, mercy, justice, etc.) working together in perfect harmony. We believe that we exist to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
COMMITTED TO DOCTRINAL SOUNDNESS
Every church has a doctrinal confession, though some may claim they have “no confession but Christ” or “no creed but the Bible.” Every church summarizes its convictions in some form in order to distinguish its members from those who are not believers or those who do not embrace their church’s distinctives.
Knowledge alone, however, leads invariably to pride (1 Cor. 8:1). It is our sincere desire to affirm truth in genuine Christian love. We believe that truth, properly received and applied, produces affections that stir the heart to obedience, thus yielding a life that glorifies God. Such a God-glorifying life is the very purpose for our existence.
We believe that the unifying principle in the Scriptures is the progressive revelation of the "mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4) through the biblical covenants made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and, finally, Jesus Christ.
To speak of the unity of the covenants means that there is, and always has been, only one way to salvation in both the Old and New Testaments—that is, by God’s grace alone through faith alone. This covenantal understanding of the Bible is in distinction from any system of organizing the Scriptures that would attribute differing ways of salvation to a succession of historical biblical eras.
To say that we are evangelical means that we take our stand with those who believe in what are called “the fundamentals” of the Christian faith: the existence of the triune God, the complete humanity and deity of Jesus Christ, the virgin conception of Christ and His incarnation as the eternal Son of God, the utter sinfulness of all humanity, the substitutionary death of Christ as the only way of salvation, the physical resurrection of Christ, His sure, bodily return, salvation by God’s grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and the infallibility and divine authority of the Bible as a faithful and true guide to what we are to believe and how we are to live.
We joyfully affirm our unity with those from every tradition and denomination that hold these fundamentals, including those true believers in Christ who are members of denominations or churches with which we might have certain theological or doctrinal disagreements in other areas.
This means we take seriously the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations….” Without compromising the sovereignty of God, we affirm the responsibility of each person to repent and believe on Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. We further affirm our responsibility to extend the message of the Gospel as a call to salvation to everyone who hears its message. To this end, we call all, without distinction, to drink freely of the Water of Life and to live eternally in the presence of their Creator.
This privilege and responsibility is realized in our immediate context as we encourage one another to proclaim the Gospel, and to be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that we have in Christ. It is also realized in the mandate from our Lord to declare His glory to the nations. To this end, we support several missionaries in domestic and overseas missions. We encourage the community of believers at Evangelical Fellowship to consider being a part of missions to other parts of the world.
COMMITTED TO THE DOCTRINES OF GRACE
We have an historical link to the foundation that comes from the New Testament Apostles, especially Paul… then Augustine… then the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century… Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Ulrich Zwingli, and other Reformers of the Church. This link refers to certain theological distinctives that have marked Reformation believers, particularly those who embrace what have come to be referred to as “the doctrines of grace.” These distinctives can be summarized by our glad affirmation of the responsibility of every person to repent and believe, and that it is God who, by His sovereign electing grace, draws men and women, otherwise dead in sin, to faith in His Son. By this faith alone are God’s people justified.
We believe that the most clear biblical pattern is for churches to be governed by elders. Therefore, spiritual oversight is provided by a plurality of elders whose primary duty is to shepherd God’s people. It would be accurate to say that Evangelical Fellowship exercises congregational involvement under the spiritual care of elders.
COMMITTED TO BIBLICAL COUNSELING
We embrace Jesus Christ and His Word as sufficient for counseling, believe in the God who has given us everything we need for growth in godliness, and confidently expect that God will continue to use His Word to conform His people to His image. In other words, we believe the Bible is sufficient to answer every problem and meet every need that we have as God’s children (II Peter 1:3). Our goal, then, is to encourage and assist believers to grow in the likeness of Christ, which is accomplished through the application of the Word of God in very specific ways and by the work of the Holy Spirit as believers respond in faith.1
ABOUT THESE DISTINCTIVES
We affirm these distinctives as important in the sense of being profitable and health-producing for Christians to believe. We are further convinced that as one comes to embrace these beliefs, he/she will grow to love and honor the Lord Jesus Christ more fully and understand more richly what it means to live by His grace.
Acceptance of all these distinctives, however, is not required for membership in Evangelical Fellowship. One can join and be a participating member of the church without holding to any but the “EVANGELICAL” distinctives mentioned earlier in this article.
It is our absolute and unwavering conviction that to be strong in truth without being gentle in manner is unbiblical. It is also our conviction that to be gentle in manner while not adhering to scriptural truth is also unbiblical. By God's grace, we desire to be both.
STATEMENT OF FAITH
1. God: We believe in one God, Creator of all things, holy, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Having limitless knowledge and sovereign power, God has graciously purposed from eternity to redeem a people for Himself and to make all things new for His own glory.
2. The Bible: We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.
3. The Human Condition: We believe that God created Adam and Eve in His image, but they sinned when tempted by Satan. In union with Adam, human beings are sinners by nature and by choice, alienated from God, and under His wrath. Only through God’s saving work in Jesus Christ can we be rescued, reconciled and renewed.
4. Jesus Christ: We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel's promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.
5. The Work of Christ: We believe that Jesus Christ, as our representative and substitute, shed His blood on the cross as the perfect, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins. His atoning death and victorious resurrection constitute the only ground for salvation.
6. The Holy Spirit: We believe that the Holy Spirit, in all that He does, glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He convicts the world of its guilt. He regenerates sinners, and in Him they are baptized into union with Christ and adopted as heirs in the family of God. He also indwells, illuminates, guides, equips and empowers believers for Christ-like living and service.
7. The Church: We believe that the true church comprises all who have been justified by God's grace through faith alone in Christ alone. They are united by the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ, of which He is the Head. The true church is manifest in local churches, whose membership should be composed only of believers. The Lord Jesus mandated two ordinances, baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which visibly and tangibly express the gospel. Though they are not the means of salvation, when celebrated by the church in genuine faith, these ordinances confirm and nourish the believer.
8. Christian Living: We believe that God's justifying grace must not be separated from His sanctifying power and purpose. God commands us to love Him supremely and others sacrificially, and to live out our faith with care for one another, compassion toward the poor and justice for the oppressed. With God’s Word, the Spirit’s power, and fervent prayer in Christ’s name, we are to combat the spiritual forces of evil. In obedience to Christ’s commission, we are to make disciples among all people, always bearing witness to the gospel in word and deed.
9. Christ’s Return: We believe in the personal and bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living, sacrificial service and energetic mission.
10. Response and Eternal Destiny: We believe that God commands everyone everywhere to believe the gospel by turning to Him in repentance and receiving the Lord Jesus Christ. We believe that God will raise the dead bodily and judge the world, assigning the unbeliever to condemnation and eternal conscious punishment and the believer to eternal blessedness and joy with the Lord in the new heaven and the new earth, to the praise of His glorious grace. Amen.
1 From Women Helping Women, by Elyse Fitzpatrick & Carol Cornish, Copyright 1997 by Harvest House Publishers, pages 11 & 15